Edited By Robert Hairston
Get your cleanups and trimming done now so you have a clean slate once the growing season starts. You really want to make sure your yard is clean as the weather and seasons change. This helps you keep an eye out for early weeds and problems in xeriscaped areas, like in the pictures below, and lawn areas and under trees and shrubs in particular. This also helps remove desirable hidey holes for undesirable pests. Trimming is also an important thing to consider not just for aesthetic purposes but also to encourage plant growth in the places and direction you want along with a healthy structure. Both of these are great ways to take stock of what your yard needs and where you might want to put some new things!
Lawn maintenance is something you want to be vigilant with and it's a good time to check your lawn for excessive thatch. Thatch isn’t bad, it’s actually really good to have some, as long as it’s in moderation. Now, what is thatch? Thatch is a naturally accumulated layer of organic matter on your lawn that surrounds the base of the grass. This can mean pieces of leaves, dead and alive grass shoots, plant stems and even roots. You want your layer of thatch to be up to ¼ inch thick, this will help hold in moisture and buffer the roots from temperature extreme. Excessive thatch can block air, water, nutrients, and fertilizer from reaching the proper depth in the soil. It can also create insect havens, moisture buildup on the surface, fungal diseases, and even damage to the soil in the long run.
To help encourage a deeper root system, Aeration is always a plus in the spring and/or in the fall! Core aeration is when one uses an aerator (left) to pull up “plugs” (right) from the lawn in order to decompress the soil, enable air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil and allow more soil movement so the roots have more space to grow. You’ve probably seen these plugs before on lawns, at parks, or even on golf courses and just thought there was a dog invasion with no one to pick up after them. The plugs are typically 1-2 inches long, ½ to ¾ inches thick and usually breakdown within a couple of weeks. It's best to fertilize your lawn after this service to maximize the benefits from both services.
Don’t forget the fertilizer! We always want to make sure that our plants are well cared for to better promote that beautiful, healthy growth and fertilizing is one of the best ways to ensure that it’s doing it’s best. Just be careful not to over do it. Too much fertilizer could risk giving your plants a “fertilizer burn.” When this happens the plant sustains root damage and the leaf edges or blades of grass turn a brown or yellow due to nitrogen and salts building up and drying out the roots.
Start thinking about scheduling both pre- and post-emergent herbicide applications in areas you don't want weeds (about every 3-6 months), spot spray for weeds as you see them, and/or simply pull them as they come up as great ways to at least control a lot of headaches later on.
Pro Tip - You want to watch for and quickly remove any green plants in the mustard family as they appear (example above). These weeds can quickly take up space and run desirable plants out of the areas you want them. They are also a host plant for leaf hoppers which can do damage to desirable plants and turf.